Every Picture Tells a Story [Don't it?] - 03 - Updated Twice!
In truth, there isn't much of a back story to this one. No voices in a dark, dank crusader castle, no frightening lone housewives with a cold call. Also in truth, I can't pinpoint exactly the location of this rustic scene myself. It was late April, 1990, and I think I can limit it to about three or four villages not too far from what is now the second city of this country.
I'll give you a day to guess where it is, I mean, the country - which in this age of IT wonders, shouldn't be difficult at all. And because I'm a softee, I'll give you a clue - it suffered under an increasingly mad ruler and his even more insane wife from 1965 to 1989.
And if you can spot the policeman hiding with his speed gun - I'll buy you a pint :)
UPDATE: Yes John Holloway, and several others it's Romania. (But that was the easy bit!). It was a spring day when I drove west from Cluj/Kolozsvár/Klausenburg one morning, and about 30 km out, turned south to see what I would find. I was driving by the sun, not knowing where I was going in terms of the map. I think I turned at either at Luna de Sus or, a bit less likely, Gilau. I then headed towards Băișoara, a village which goes by the delightful name in Hungarian of Járabánya (and which sounds an ideal fit for about 14,000 limericks). The Germans were greedy, and had two names for the place – Kleingrub and Ginsdorf, just in case the postman wasn't certain.
It sounds as if in the past it was a mining centre, but for what I have no clue. Perhaps someone reading this knows?
The photo above might even be in Băișoara, but I have a feeling it's a bit further north, perhaps Vlaha or Săvădisla – the latter being Tordaszentlászló in Hungarian. (Since it hasn't got a German name, there were either none living there, or if they did, I suppose they never got any letters:) ) Not that most of you are any the wiser, but you can now find the places on google maps – and who knows, maybe someone from there will one day log on and recognise their grandad leading the horse:). These days however, it looks as if the rural tranquility of some of these villages has been seared by a new EU-funded bypass, allowing drivers to avoid Cluj in their rush towards Brassov and Bucharest. I don't think I planned this photo as such – I just drove past the man, horse and cart and stopped for a pic – only noticing the irony of the road sign on getting out. I suspect he's passed away by now: let's hope he died a happy fellow.
There is more to the area around this photograph than meets the (untrained) eye. Géza Jeszensky, former foreign minister (1990-94), ambassador and historian wrote in to say:
"As to the road at Járabánya, less than an hour's drive from Kolozsvár. In Roman times gold mining started in the mountains nearby. Mining was resumed in the late 18th century.
"Today the place is noted for the white gold; skiing. The peaks rise to 1,700m, in early March this year I participated there in a family ski race organized by the Erdélyi Kárpát Egyesület, the Hungarian Mountaineering Association.
"In the vicinity of Járabánya an anti-communist guerilla unit held out until 1949! (It was Romanian, not Hungarian.)"
Now that last bit really sounds like an interesting story. I was told anti-communist guerillas were active to the south of Sibiu for some years after 1945, but had never heard of such in Cluj County.